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by Jessica Goolsby, staff writer

Rose Helens-Hart, director of debate at HPU, recently returned from Cork, Ireland where she was an adjudicator for the World Universities Debating Championship 2009. The competition featured over 300 teams from 43 different countries. Helens-Hart was one of four women selected to contribute to Women’s Day, a day to encourage further participation of women in debating and to raise the profile of women in the world debating community. The equity officer of the event, Tony Murphy, said that Helens-Hart’s “role as the director of the Debate program at Hawai‘i Pacific University and as the convener of the Pan-Pacific Championship deserves recognition for spreading the values and discourse and free speech.”
Helens-Hart said: “I wanted to be proof that a woman could be as good as or better than her male counter parts in constructing arguments, thinking on her feet, and being knowledgeable on world issues. Since my high school days though, the number of women in debate has increased—two women won the World Championship in 2007, this year’s top speaker at that tournament was a woman and even in the tournament we hosted the number of women participants out-numbered men roughly 2-to-1, and two women took home the title of Pan Pacific Champions.”
The women selected for Women’s Day held a debate to showcase female debating talent from around the world. The motion debated was “this house would ban all forms of religious gender discrimination.” Helens-Hart was placed on the side of the debate supporting the motion of banning all forms of religious gender discrimination and said “I discussed the need for the state to enforce nondiscrimination laws in the private sphere of citizens’ lives since the activities of women around the world largely within this sphere. Also, churches provide significant social welfare services in many communities and should be held to the same non-discrimination standards as other organizations so as not to delegitimize other non-discrimination laws and efforts to create equality between the sexes.”
Murphy went on to say, “as well as ensuring regional representation at the debate, our primary goal is to ensure the highest standards of speakers for the best discussion possible” and that Helens-Hart’s “continued participation at previous Worlds, not to mention success as an adjudicator, makes [her] one of the most experienced choices for the event.”
Helens-Hart turned to debate when she realized that if she could convincingly debate a topic with only 15 minutes notice she could get through just about anything in life. She was then a junior in high school. Helens-Hart said, “after that first debate tournament I was hooked and was winning tournaments with my partner by the end of the year. Debating was puzzle work—an intellectual game where brains and creativity were rewarded. I was able to use acting techniques in my presentation style, think creatively when proposing or rejecting solutions to global problems and learn so much about the world through my debate research.”
Helens-Hart has added a public service dimension to debate at HPU by incorporating students’ participation in example classroom debates, showcase debates that include the faculty-student Mixed Plate Debate series, and volunteering to judge local high school tournaments and mentor young debaters. Helens-Hart said, “Debating can have an incredible impact on an individual’s ability to do independent research, understand and think critically about complex issues in society and speak publicly and confidently. Looking more holistically at debate, it is about encouraging public discourse and informed decision making on local and international issues and being responsible global citizens.”

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